Deflategate: The Patriots go soft

Bill Belichick by Keith Allison

Bill Belichick by Keith Allison

The Pharisees of professional sports came out of the woodwork in the wake of allegations that the New England Patriots illegally deflated their footballs to gain an advantage in their recent game against the Colts. NFL balls are required to be inflated at a range of between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. The rule sounds like the start of one those math questions we all hated when we were children. QUESTION: If an NFL football is inflated at 12.5 pounds per square inch and the barometric pressure rises from 30.06 to 30.51 on game day, how much will the pressure of the football increase or decrease? ANSWER: It depends on which team will use the football.

ESPN said 11 of 12 balls used by the Patriots in the AFC title game were two pounds per square inch under the minimum. Judging from reactions of fans and the media, you’d think the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had been let loose upon the earth. Granted, if I can’t trust the integrity of a quintessential American football team, who can I trust? Wasn’t professional sports supposed to be one of the last bastions of integrity? I guess there’s too much money at stake even for sports to remain pure and innocent. The love of money is indeed the root of all evil.

I don’t know if Patriots coach Bill Belichick is guilty of cheating, or if someone else in the franchise is responsible for the deflated balls, or if atmospheric conditions contributed to the deflation of the balls. Nobody knows. But many lovers of the game are calling for severe consequences in this apparently scandalous breach of the rules. To some folks, the breaking of even a minor sports rule justifies harsh penalties. (Someone throw a yellow flag, or two, or three.) Apparently grace has no place in the NFL fan base. It does not matter that the Patriots would have won even if they played with a flat ball; their performance on the field was that good. Common sense tells us that they did not win because their ball was underinflated by two pounds. So why all the brouhaha by many fans and media talking heads? Ultimately the real question is this: why does our culture seem to care more about the alleged violation of a trivial sports rule than we do about, oh, I don’t know … violations of our Constitution and unethical behavior of our political leaders as well as some of the shady practices of our financial and industrial leaders?

Granted, professional sport is entertainment and does not demand that followers have a detailed understanding of the nuances of the game (unless you are a bookie or a Fantasy Football acolyte). You can know a lot or little about the game and still enjoy the action. Interestingly, ancient Rome used sport in the Coliseum to keep the masses distracted from the many problems looming in their society. Today, our leaders know they can get away with murder as long as people have a full belly, a six pack of Pabst and their favorite team to watch each weekend. I’m not suggesting our society needs to abandon professional sports. I am suggesting that it is dangerous for a society to care more about the violation of rules regarding air pressure in footballs than it does about issues of integrity in high places. Additionally, if we the people decide to start caring about integrity in high places, it would be hypocritical to make exceptions for our favorite players, organizations and ideologies.

Matthew 6:21 says “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Do we treasure the right things, or just the fun things? Professional sports are cool and glamorous. It’s hard to compete with that for the minds and hearts of the people. I get it. But our culture won’t survive unless the people find a way to enjoy, and take seriously, their crucial role as an essential force that holds our leaders accountable … ALL of our leaders.

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Posted on January 24, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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